When I step back and analyze why I like Dark Souls so much I think it stems from my love of the Ghouls ‘N Ghosts series. Both series are incredibly punishing but when you adjust to their particular mechanics are reasonable. Still difficult, but manageable. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts came early in the Super Nintendo’s life and still remains one of its best action titles. In my opinion it is the best in the series and a true classic.
Arthur has gained a new ability while losing another in the process. You can no longer throw weapons up or down but can now double jump. The addition of the double jump is huge and cannot be understated. As the only means of changing direction in midair the level design has been changed significantly to accommodate it. In addition to the lance, dagger, torch, and axe a few new weapons have been added. The crossbow, scythe, and tri-blade join the party although their uses are questionable. The tri-blade especially is one of the dumbest weapons in gaming history and should be avoided at all costs.
The armor system has also been significantly expanded. The steel armor is joined by a new green suit. This armor upgrades your existing weapon to a magical form with changes that are often dramatic. The daggers are normally weak but when upgraded might be the best weapon in the game. The bow and arrow isn’t great at first but in its second form homes in on enemies. If you can keep this armor it can be powered up to the gold armor which allows you to perform a charged attack like its predecessor. It also comes with a shield that absorbs one hit. For the truly skilled you can find the sun shield, which absorbs three hits and shortens magic charge time. This is truly broken but will be rarely seen.
The double jump changes the focus of the level design to be heavily focused on platforming. The stages are immaculately designed, with deliberate enemy and platform placement owed to your greater dexterity. There is some nuance to how you time your second jumps that the game takes advantage of n some creative scenarios. The environment plays a heavier factor as crashing waves, rising water and avalanches change the landscape. I really miss shooting upwards but the game has been designed around it. Each of the seven levels is divided into
By now the series difficulty has become legendary and this is no different. Even with all of the available upgrades and increased mobility this is still pretty tough. There are many blind leaps and some dubious enemy placement. More than likely most will attempt each level several times to memorize every enemy spawn and the layout. With that in mind it is still rough. If you pick one of the many bad weapons you are absolutely screwed. And if you can actually believe the Red Arremers are even more difficult to kill now! Curiously the bosses are literal cake walks, mostly due to the annoying slowdown.
What really puts this installment over the top is the fact that you must go through it twice. The second time the Goddess Bracelet is required to reach the end and unfortunately it is not a good weapon. If there were passwords it wouldn’t be so bad. But having to run through this monster twice in one sitting is asking a lot from players.
Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is a beautiful title that could easily pass for an arcade game. Capcom’s artists went to town, pouring lavish amounts of detail in every level. There is a greater use of weather effects such as pouring rain and falling snow that is just to watch. The bosses and demons are insanely creative and really expand the game’s world significantly. It wouldn’t be an early Super Nintendo game without some use of Mode 7 but mercifully it is restrained. Aside from the intro stage three’s rotating tower and the entirety of stage four are the only major uses of rotational effects. If you can believe it the music might be even better than the graphics. Both creepy and atmospheric it fits the game perfectly.
The gorgeous production values come with a heavy cost. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts has some of the worst first generation slowdown on the SNES. Outside of rare exceptions whenever three or more enemies appear on screen you can hear the system struggle. If there are any large sprites on screen you can expect the game to nearly grind to a halt. This makes more than a few boss fights tricky yet at the same time insanely easy. I wouldn’t say that slowdown is constant but it does occur at the most inconvenient times. Thankfully because of the game’s pace it isn’t a game breaking but it is embarrassing to see.
Performance issue aside this is still the best in the series in my opinion. The SNES version is still great but I would recommend the excellent Gameboy Advance port. That version has two extra levels but more importantly two save slots. It makes the second trip through the game much more bearable. Either way Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts remains a classic.